California is Holding Out on Education Reforms, Say the Feds

OCBC Will Continue to Push for Action

California, well known to be one of the bluest of blue states, and one that overwhelming supported President Barack Obama in his re-election bid last November, has forcefully pushed back on the administration to implement much needed education reforms that include grading the performance of teachers in a state where innovation and creativity is key to producing a highly skilled workforce for the 21st century. Recently, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had expressed his frustration with California as one of the “last holdouts” as the Education Department works to create a streamlined system that would be used to incentivize the best teachers in the state and weed out the worst in the profession.

“I actually use the California model, and not in a good way, as I travel the country,” Duncan said speaking the LA Times. “There are about 300,000 teachers in California. The top 10 percent arguably are among the best in the world. The bottom 10 percent maybe shouldn’t be teaching. No one in California that I have met can tell me who is in that top 10 percent and that bottom 10 percent.”

Unfortunately the push back is coming from Governor Brown and the state’s most powerful union, the California Teachers Association which has adamantly fought against the national effort to base teacher evaluations on standardized tests.

Case in point, in April of this year, OCBC signed onto SB 441 which would have required teachers and principals, every three years instead of every five years, to be given one of four ratings in place of the current archaic system of just “satisfactory” vs. “unsatisfactory.”  It would have been based on effectiveness and require regular teacher and principal evaluations to ensure they receive frequent and meaningful feedback.  Despite the overwhelming support from community leaders, parents, students and other teachers, the bill failed in education committee on a 4-4 tie.  Those speaking on behalf of the bill had their voices silenced by the teacher’s union.

So too, not wanting to be held back by the state, nine California districts, including the Santa Ana Unified and Garden Grove Unified School Districts’ submitted separate applications for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law to get around the Governor Brown’s opposition. The Orange County districts, if their applications are accepted, will answer to an independent panel and cut through the usual bureaucratic red tape and not be exposed to expensive federal authorizations in an extreme low-income area is a huge incentive for local control for local administrators and trustees.

As recently as 2011, the Science and Engineering Readiness Index (SERI) which measures how high school students are performing in science and math ranked California 34th in the nation, well below average for the world’s 8th largest economy.  We can do better.  OCBC will continue to push for reform because where California leads, so goes the nation. For more information contact Alicia Berhow, Vice President, Workforce Development.

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